Students aren't the only ones settling into classes at North Platte Community College this week. Three new full-time faculty members have also joined the NPCC family.
They are Lynn Lupomech, NPCC's new accounting instructor, Dr. Diane Walter, nurse educator, and Pam Koch, interim music instructor. All began teaching classes on Monday, and all say they are excited about what the school year has in store.
"I'm looking forward to being part of the NPCC staff, working with the students and supporting the athletic teams," said Lupomech. "At my previous job, I taught the lower level accounting courses, and now I get to teach the full range. That will be a fun challenge."
Lupomech left North Platte over three decades ago. After graduating from St. Pat's High School in 1979, she attended what was then Kearney State College, earning bachelor's degrees in business education and business administration.
Lupomech then went on to obtain a master's degree in education, curriculum and instruction from Doane University in Crete and a second master's degree in professional accountancy from the Metropolitan State University of Denver.
She spent 31 years teaching business education at the high school level, 11 years of which were in Longmont, Colo. Another was in Geelong, Australia as part of a teacher exchange.
Most recently, Lupomech taught accounting and personal finance courses at Central Community College in Hastings.
"I saw the opening for a NPCC accounting instructor on a higher-education employment website and was encouraged to apply after talking to Marilyn McGahan [former NPCC vice president]," said Lupomech.
She's known McGahan since high school, when McGahan's husband, Bill, was the superintendent at St. Pat's. Ever since then, Lupomech has looked to Marilyn for career advice.
Lupomech said being back in North Platte gives her the opportunity to be closer to family, two sisters and a brother. It also puts her closer to Colorado and one of her favorite pastimes - hiking. In addition to hiking, Lupomech enjoys playing golf, exercising, reading and following sports.
Dr. Diane Walter
Nursing wasn't the first career choice for NPCC's new nurse educator. Walter entered the profession as the result of a last request. Looking back, she's so glad she did.
"My 5-year-old niece died of leukemia on July 27, 1990," said Walter. "Before she died, she made me promise to become a nurse, and I never break a promise."
Walter's original plan was to coach softball and basketball. Following her high school graduation in 1982, the Minden native enrolled at Southeast Community College, back when it was still at Fairbury. She majored in journalism until her nephew was killed, at which point she dropped out of school.
Walter went back to school after her niece's request, graduating as a licensed practical nurse from SCC in Beatrice in 1992.
She would go on to receive an associate degree from Regents College in Albany, N.Y. in 1998, a bachelor's degree from the University of Saint Mary in Leavenworth, Kan. in 2008 and a master's degree with a concentration in nursing education from Drexel University in Philadelphia, Pa. in 2010.
In February, she added a Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing degree from the University of Arizona in Tucson, Ariz.
"I didn't choose nursing. It was chosen for me," said Walter. "But, I love every aspect of it. Nursing is who I am."
Some of the many places Walter has worked over the years include the Clay County Hospital in Clay Center, Kan., the Beatrice State Developmental Center in Beatrice and The Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society in Wymore where she was the restorative coordinator and infection control and wound nurse.
"My specialty, though, is death and dying," said Walter. "It's a process that we all have to go through. I really like geriatrics and pain and symptom control, which is why I chose to work in hospice for seven years."
Most recently, Walter was the Nursing Assistant Program coordinator at Arizona Western College in Yuma, Ariz. Prior to that, she was Arizona Western's interim director of nursing. She had been at the college for more than six years when she stumbled across an open nurse educator position at NPCC.
"It was an opportunity to come home and give back to the people who helped me get to where I am today," said Walter of her decision to apply for the job. "As I worked on my doctorate, all of my colleagues and former students from Nebraska kept pushing me and telling me I could do it. Now, I'm looking to inspire others. I plan to do that by showing students that learning can be fun."
Pam Koch has been immersed in music ever since she can remember.
"I started playing the piano when I was four," said Koch. "My mother taught piano lessons to other kids, and when they would leave, I would crawl up on the bench and practice what they had been playing."
Her interest in piano continued into her teens, at which point she also took up singing and saxophone. After graduating from Grant High School in 1973, Koch headed to Kearney State.
"I majored in piano and earned a bachelor's degree in music education," said Koch. "My intention was to become a professional accompanist, but right out of college, I didn't have enough money to live in L.A. and pursue that dream."
Instead, she fell back on her education degree and went to work teaching music in the public school system from 1977 to 2015.
"The first three years I taught K-12 vocal and instrumental music," said Koch. "I started out in Wolbach for two years, then spent a year in Eustis and the remainder of my teaching experience was at Cozad."
Koch was initially hired to teach general music classes to middle school students and to be Cozad's assistant band director. In 1985, she became the school's elementary music teacher - a role she maintained until her retirement in 2015.
Koch continued her own studies over the years, eventually earning a master's degree in music education from the University of Nebraska at Kearney.
She served as an adjunct for NPCC from the time of her retirement up until this summer when she was asked to be the college's interim music instructor.
"Previously, I taught Music Appreciation, Piano Techniques for music majors and private piano lessons for NPCC," said Koch. "This year, I will continue the private lessons, but will also teach a group piano class, Music Theory, Sight Singing and Ear Training and the advanced music classes."
Koch is currently putting together an instrumental ensemble that will replace the separate jazz and chamber ensembles of the past. Angelina Gradel, a new adjunct instructor, will oversee the vocal classes.
"We're really looking forward to working with the music majors as well as those who might think they don't have any musical talent at all," said Koch. "That's the best part of music. Everyone is musical in some way, and everyone can have their own taste in music and not be wrong. Music is universal. It's for everyone."